The Times West Virginian

August 10, 2011

Making it his own

By Debra Minor Wilson
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — (Editor’s note: The “My Favorite Recipe” food for August is picnic salads. Send your favorite homemade recipes to Debbie Wilson at

Just because a recipe is in a classic cookbook doesn’t mean you have to make it that way.

Take Bob Coffman’s coleslaw, for example.

He took the recipe from an old Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.

“But I tweaked it,” he said. “More vinegar for better flavor. Salt and pepper, things like that. But it’s basically the same recipe.”

He learned to make it old school: chopping and shredding the ingredients by hand.

“Back when we got married, you couldn’t get any chopped vegetable kits like you can now,” he said. “You had to make your own stuff.

“I chopped all this stuff myself. It doesn’t take any time to make.”

The family — wife Sharyn and children Cindy, Brian and Chris — liked it, so it’s a Coffman dinner table regular.

But his menu isn’t limited to slaw.

“He’s the best steak cooker ever,” Sharyn said.

He also does a mean blackened tuna on a cast iron skillet reserved for tuna and blackened swordfish.

“I got the seasoning at Salvo, on the Outer Banks,” he said.

“You get the pan as hot as you can get it, put unsalted butter on the fish, sprinkle this stuff on and throw it in the pan. It actually burns it. It takes about 3-4 minutes, flip, burn on the other side, and it’s good.”

He’s got a hot tip for cooking steak.

“Take it out of the refrigerator and let it sit on the counter to room temperature. Then it doesn’t take as long to cook in the middle, and you don’t have to cook it to death. If you take it out of the fridge and cook it then, it’s cold in the middle.”

For a little extra flair, he serves his steaks on sizzling platters, “the kind the waiter brings to your table with the food spitting hot,” he said.

“Put them in the oven and get them good and hot, and let the steak rest on them. The steak needs to rest.”

He also likes to put chicken and ribs in the smoker on their back patio.

“Let it in there for three, four hours, and let the smoke cook the meat. It’s very good.”

The Fairview native has always wanted to cook.

“When I was a kid in 4-H, they asked me what I wanted to learn how to do, and I said to cook. I guess that’s not right for a boy, but I did want to learn,” he said with a laugh.

He spent some time in Brazil for work, and learned a whole new world of cuisine there.

“I had goat, ostrich, octopus, wild boar ... I tried everything. I like to try tings, but Sharyn doesn’t.

“I ate a lot of exotic food, crazy food, like the hump of a Brahman beef cattle. It’s a delicacy there. It tastes different than beef from around here. It’s a little fatty.”

Then there’s the stew/soup made from the “pig parts that nobody else wants,” he said. “It’s not bad, if you don’t know what goes in there.”

He also makes good picnic food like baked beans, and Sharyn makes good macaroni salad.

“Me? I like to handle the meat and potatoes part,” he said.

They didn’t have a July 4 cookout but just might for Labor Day. Their back porch is plenty big enough for the kids and grandkids.

He also makes a Brazilian dessert of sliced grilled bananas with condensed milk and cinnamon.

The typical Brazilian diet is healthier than here in the U.S., he said.

“Little is fried there. Rice and beans are big. They go to the grocery almost every day because their food doesn’t have many preservatives.

“Milk lasts two, sometimes three days. In the summertime, you better eat your bread by that night or it will go bad the next day from the heat.”

The contest for August is picnic salads. To be featured on the “My Favorite Recipe” page, contact Debbie Wilson at 304-367-2549 or

Email Debra Minor Wilson at